LAS VEGAS — With Sig Sauer’s recent contracts to provide the handgun for the entire U.S. military, as well as a new rifle, automatic rifle, optics, suppressors and potentially a new medium machine gun for the Army, the company may be the only brand of gun that some troops use while in service.
Sig Sauer didn’t display its products at this year’s Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, but the company’s dominance of recent U.S. military small arms contracts is likely to have a decades-long influence on the market. The M16 and M4 have been the military’s service rifle for more than half a century. The former sidearm, the Beretta M9 pistol, was in service for more than 30 years.
Historically, companies have grown in brand recognition and commercial sales due, in part, to their success with military contracts.
In 2017, Sig Sauer got a shot at the handgun contract when the Army decided to replace the M9. Sig Sauer won the Modular Handgun System award for providing both the standard-sized 9mm handgun, the M17, and the compact-sized weapon, the M18. The Air Force, Navy and Marines subsequently adopted the sidearm as well.
Since then, the company has shipped 480,000 pistols to the U.S. military. It also recently had its ROMEO M17 pistol optic added to the military supply inventory, making it an item units can order but that is not currently fielded with the pistol.
Shortly after winning the handgun contract, Sig Sauer entered the competition to replace the M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon for Army close combat troops under the service’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Program.
In 2022 the Army chose Sig Sauer’s M7 for the new rifle, and the M250 for its automatic rifle. Once fully fielded, the two weapons will be the primary arms for the more than 100,000 close combat forces, from infantrymen and scouts to combat engineers.
That same year, U.S. Special Operations Command chose the Sig Sauer MCX Rattler as its low-signature personal defense weapon. The compact rifle can be configured to fire either 5.56mm or .300 Blackout caliber rounds.
Over that same timeframe, Sig Sauer’s TANGO6T rifle optic won contracts for SOCOM and the Army’s Squad Designated Marksman rifle.
“We are essentially becoming the small arms company of the U.S. military,” Tom Taylor, Sig Sauer chief marketing officer and vice president of sales, told Military Times.
Taylor declined to provide specific sales figures for Sig Sauer products.
Notable non-Sig Sauer options do remain in troops’ arsenals. The Army’s non-close combat force will continue to use the M4. Though the Marine Corps has tested the NGSW, it has not adopted it. In 2017, the service fielded its own M4 replacement, the M27, Infantry Automatic Rifle, made by Heckler and Koch.
Also, the company is currently competing in the SOCOM lightweight medium machine gun program. That effort involves a .338 Norma Magnum machine gun.
The M4, a later version of the original M16 fielded to troops during the Vietnam War, has vastly influenced the U.S. civilian gun market in recent decades. The Armalite, or AR-style, weapons permeate popular culture firearms depictions in film, video games and other media.
Troops using the M16, M4 or M9 over the past decades were familiar with the weapons and sometimes more likely to purchase one post-service.
The incoming generation of soldiers will carry a Sig Sauer rifle or machine gun, use a Sig Sauer optic and strap a Sig Sauer pistol to their side.
“For millions of young men and women going into an AAFES or on the battlefield, Sig is going to be the only small arms they use,” Taylor said.
As the squad weapon, handgun and other Sig Sauer products flow into military use, the entertainment industry is already taking note.
Video games such as “Call of Duty” are already building the M7 and M250 into their next game rollouts, Taylor said.
“From this point forward, the handgun is already in service, military shows are having to transition to that gun,” he added.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to show the number of Modular Handgun Systems delivered to the Army and to use the correct nomenclature for the ROMEO M17 optic.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.